I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fitness update: Four years off the couch!

Last August, I wrote a post about passing the milestone of 3000 miles of activity logged on Endomondo. Then, in September, I did a post about how, despite all the exercise, my weight had gotten all the way back up to 274 pounds. I figured it's time to update with fresh information.

This morning, my weight was 256. That's a much better weight than 274, but nowhere near where I was hoping to be by now. Last year when I resolved to get my calories under control again, I really hoped to lose at least 10% of my body weight, getting my weight below 250, to around 247. Alas, it was not to be. Last fall, with my most aggressive dieting, I think I got as low as 252. Then, as discussed last year, Cheryl was diagnosed with breast cancer and while on chemo her food tolerances changed and she couldn't keep down leafy greens or too much protein. Starchy foods were what she could eat, so I wound up eating them with her. This got my weight back up into the high 260s.

Fortunately, we've returned to better diet habits since then. But I wouldn't say I'm currently on a "diet." I'm basically eating what I want to eat and maintaining a weight in the mid 250s. We've gone back to eating a lot of veggies with our dinners. Cauliflower is now on our plates more often than pasta. This might not strike some people as mouthwatering, but that's because they don't know how to cook cauliflower.

Of course, weight isn't the only important measure of fitness. When I logged into Endomondo just now to look at my stats, I see that I've now logged 4616 miles. I suspect I'll definitely be over the 5000 mile mark by my birthday in March, even with winter months on the way.

While Cheryl was sick, we had to cut back on really long bike rides in excess of 50 miles. In fact, we haven't had a single 50 mile ride all year. What we do have are many more rides in the 10-20 mile range. Even when Cheryl was at her sickest, she would still get out every week and log miles, even if it was just a short walk, or a six or seven mile bike ride. She's now recovered enough that we've started getting in 30 mile rides on Saturdays. This is a pretty good place for us to be. Thirty miles is long enough that it feels like effort, but not so long that your body aches for days afterward.

It's been a little over four years since Cheryl and I decided to stop being couch potatoes and get outdoors. At this point, I think it's safe to say it's  not just a fad. For the first year or two, I kept wondering how close we were to backsliding. In any given month, there are always going to be days where you stay inside because of bad weather, or choose not to exercise during good weather because you've got other stuff to do. I thought it would be pretty easy to slip from a goal of 100 miles a month of exercise to 80 miles, or twenty miles a week. And from there, 10 miles a week would still be a lot more exercise than we used to get, right? Heck, five miles a week is more than enough to stay healthy, isn't it?

Actually, from most things I've read, five miles of walking a week would keep you pretty healthy, and it's far more exercise than most Americans get. However, I don't think there's much danger of us slipping back into our couch potato lifestyle. Exercise is no longer something we make ourselves do. It's become central to our lives. When we make vacation plans, we no longer dream of lounging on a beach. We're researching months ahead of time to figure out where we're going to walk, hike, and kayak. For weekends, there's  never any debate about what we're going to do. We're going to go outside and log some miles. The only question is where, and whether we'll be bringing bikes, kayaks, or hiking boots.

This summer, a lot of our activities wound up being described with the phrase "death march." It was just nasty hot all summer, and things that would be easy in cool weather, like a two mile hike, become soul-crushing slogs. But here's the weird thing about soul-crushing slogs: They're actually pretty good for the soul. When you survive them, you wind up feeling like you're a little stronger and tougher than you were before. Every physical pain you endure while you're trekking through the outdoors turns into a sort of mental fuel that sustains you in all other areas of your life. For me, I no longer get anywhere near as stressed out about work as I used to. I'm not saying I have no stress, but I get to measure it against the stress of hiking through swampland in 90 degree heat while horseflies do their best to devour me. Nothing at work is as hard as that.

In Cheryl's case, there were a thousand hardships associated with cancer. There's mental stress made worse by the fact that the treatments that are saving your life are making you feel much, much worse than the cancer by itself ever did. Chemo and radiation left her exhausted. But, she had perspective on exhaustion, since she'd biked 100 miles in a single day. Exhaustion can be endured. When you're sick, it's easy to feel helpless. A great antidote to that is to go out and find that you can, in fact, still bike for ten miles. It gives you proof that illness hasn't taken everything from you, that you will, in fact pull through.

Exercise isn't going to make us immortal. But, it's improved our life on nearly every conceivable metric. We healthier and happier. If we could make this change, I really think anyone can.

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